The New York Times, January 2, 2009

"Eye to Eye," at DC Moore Gallery, by Ken Johnson


Painted with sensuous neatness in a nicely simplifying representational style, Alexi Worth's pictures present curious visual puzzles slyly charged with sexual undercurrents.

In the emblematic ''Half in Hand'' someone holds up for inspection a sliced-in-half apple, its flat side foremost. The rounded tips of five fingers punctuate its outer rim and the shadow of someone's head falls across its lower half -- that of the real-world viewer's fictive double. The flatness of the apple plays on what the formalist critic Clement Greenberg identified as increasing tendency to flatness in Modernist painting from C?nne (the great apple painter) to Barnett Newman and the early Frank Stella. Mr. Worth adds an erotic twist: the fingertips read as phallic and a seed-shaped, dark red hole in the center of the apple as vaginal.

Mr. Worth addresses another Modernist paradigm in ''Tear Sheet,'' a painting of a partly torn and crumpled magazine photograph of a woman, which reads as a Cubist composition at the same time as it traffics in old-fashioned, trompe-l'oeil realism.

Some of Mr. Worth's pictures are hard to figure out. The big, black, pointedly eye-shaped oval in ''The Formalists'' turns out to be a woman's black underwear. We're looking up between her thighs as she undoes a man's bowtie and his fingers start to pull down her panties.

Looking, seeing and comprehending is a complicated process, driven at its most urgent, Freud and Marcel Duchamp would say, by sexual curiosity. It's hard to think of another painter these days who has such infectious fun with the philosophical analysis of modern painting.